Settings are the eyes of books by which we see unfold. Without them, no matter how great a character or how fascinating a plot, a story would just be blah. It’s no doubt that the authors who incorporate these vivid sensory details are the ones who will see their books soaring to the top of a best seller list. So in honor of the lush landscapes and sweeping skylines writers describe so beautifully, I decided to make a list of my five favorite settings in young adult. The stories range from reimagined fantasy, alternate history, dystopian terrors, and a ghostly twist woven into the fabric of our modern world; but all contain the same element of a world that left me oohing and aahing for days.
Perhaps the most well known dystopian society gone wrong, Panem is a world richly spun from the remnants of a far future United States ravaged by civil war and natural disasters. While the movie adaptations only further serve as vibrant pieces of an even greater storyline, the book’s sufficed on their own with grisly details of the poverty ridden slums of civilians and the elaborate residents of the Capitol with their caricature like mannerisms. Every scene is painted with such an astounding amount of detail that I could imagine it happening before my eyes, from the various fight sequences in the Arena to the luxurious Training Center. It may seem like nothing for Suzanne Collins to tell us Katniss’s interview dress “shimmers like fire”, but it can’t have hurt in propelling this book to the status of one of the most successful books in modern history!
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson- Neverland
This retelling of Peter Pan from Tiger Lily’s perspective captures all the lush beauty described in Disney’s children edition and J. M. Barrie’s classic novel, with a bit of a darker element added in. Through the lyrical descriptions and Neverland poignant imagery I could visualize the swamps of mermaids, the lost boys and their tree houses, and Peter Pan himself in a crystal clear way. In a book where it’s integral the reader be able to place themselves firmly in the dreamscape fantasyland presented in the story, Jodi Lynn Anderson more than presented Neverland as a place of magic and mystery. Colors are brighter, the music is clearer, and action is sharper. The reading experience was even sweeter for me, as I’m not too far from the days when I would spend time on the couch watching the animated movie. This connection really helped me create a new, more demure image in my head of a childhood classic.
I know, I know. At this point, now that I’ve mentioned the book umpteen times, I should probably get the picture that everyone reading my posts gets how much I love everything about this book. But let me just reiterate that statement one more time, Wolf By Wolf IS LIFE! That setting though…it’s what totally sold it to me. Basically, it’s an alternate history spin on the what if question of Hitler and the Nazi’s prevailing in World War II. Is that not the coolest thing ever? (Hint: It is) As a reader though we don’t just get to see the book from the perspective of life in the new super country Germania, but over three continents as shape shifting motor cycle racer Yael speeds across Europe, Africa, and Asia in an attempt to win the Axis Tour and kill Hitler. That rudimentary plot might seem really confusing, but since this is a post on the setting itself let me just say…that sand storm, the crowded streets of Cairo, a landslide, and the Holi Festival in New Dehli. For my “fabulous” full on gush check this link…Wolf By Wolf Review!
Nancy Farmer won multiple awards for her insightful take on the manner of what it means to truly be human. While that question is poignant, and the basis by which the entire plot surrounds, what I find even more interesting is the world protagonist Matteo lives in. Essentially, in the not so distant future American government has totally fallen apart, the futuristic equivalent of Mexico is in a state of deterioration, and due to a scuffle between the two countries there’s a narrow strip of land between the two called Opium, aptly named for its chief export. Opium is farmed by captured people, whose brains have been hijacked into docile submission. Possibly even more distressing, current leader El Patron is 140 years old, and surviving solely by use of DNA harvested clones. I mean is that not the most horrifying visual ever??? I can just imagine these rows and rows of poppies being farmed by zombie like people as this benevolent dictator recycle the bodies of poor boys basically born to die. A great book, with a great plot, and an even greater setting.
My go to pick for favorite setting, this world hiding in plain sight is like Narnia for young adult readers. Mackenzie is really just a kick butt, Lara Croft influenced historian figuring out high school and family drama while preserving the past with a click of a key and a roundhouse kick to a vengeful spirits head (ditch the bottle cap glasses and sweater vests, real historians wear biker leather and combat boots!). Even better is the way masterful storyteller Schwab seamlessly blends her two alternating worlds into perfectly meshed cohesion, where just like Mackenzie readers can go from a bustling city street to the dank and dingy corridors of the Library within a page. A premise totally unique to itself, I could really feel myself becoming lost in such a richly imagined world so similar yet so different to our own. Get your hands on this favorite of mine pronto!
So what are your favorite settings? Do you even find settings that essential to your overall reading experience? Let me know in the comments!
Also, I’m attempting NaNoWriMo (read: failing) for the first time ever, and as such failed to realize just how out of it I would be for writing blog posts; hence the weeklong hiatus. Know though, I’m planning on getting back together this week!